Press Release
May 16, 2023

Senator Risa Hontiveros with Lt. General Benedict M. Arevalo

Commission on Appointments
May 16, 2023

Senator Risa Hontiveros (SRH): Bilang isang military officer, alam po ninyo na ang red-tagging is an important facet of the human rights crises in the Philippines which became even more acute during the past administration.

Based on the PIR, in 2021, you were relieved from your position as Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, along with the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, due to your then department at the AFP releasing and posting an erroneous list in social media of alleged NPA guerillas, which included, among others, UP alumni who allegedly became communist guerillas.

Alam niyo naman po na ang redtagging, threatens the lives and safety of individuals. Ito'y isang malaking intrusion into a person's right to privacy, due to surveillance and harassment, na umaabot sa unlawful arrests and forced disappearances and even killings.

Redtagging is disinformation enabling fraud and violence. Although you were eventually cleared by Sec. Lorenzana, stating that you were not directly responsible, maari po bang itanong, sir, is red-tagging a policy of the AFP?

Arevalo: Definitely not. What happened at that time, I actually took responsibility, as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Civil Military Operations. We also learned some lessons from what happened, and that's why the AFP is very careful now in actually crossing the line on these kinds of issue.

If you're asking ma'am, if it is the policy of the AFP, definitely it is not the policy of the AFP.

SRH: Maraming salamat, para doon, Lt. Genereal Arevalo. I guess it was not and is not a policy, so salamat for making it of record. I noted also yung sinabi ninyong you already took responsibility that the AFP learned lessons, yan ay isang pinakamahalaga po, and that the Armed Forces are now very careful about this.

Actually, na-anticipate niyo narin through your answers yung ilang followup questions ko para doon which I will ask you at least for the record.

What updates are needed in your social media policy and what are the measures you will institute to ensure that the incident will not happen again?

Arevalo: After the incident, the AFP came out with a stricter social media policy, and it has to really conform with the community standards of the social media and seeing to it that it is strictly supervised not just by the concerned staff but also the chiefs of offices and the commanders themselves.

That's why for the past maybe two years that we have been in social media, you'll find that the AFP has a stake in the implementation of the said policies.

SRH: Thank you, na-note ko yung sinabi niyo na the AFP conforms with the social standards of the social media companies. I hope na higit pa sa pag-conform sa standards ng social media companies, maging mas mahigpit pa, o maging mas mataas pa ang standards ng AFP dahil alam niyo naman siguro kahit kami pong mga mambabatas at yung ating mga kababayan, may mga problema na madalas masyadong mababa o maluwag ang standards ng mismong social media company.

Mas mapapanatag pa po ang loob ko kung yung AFP nalang ang mas magkaroon ng mas mataas na standards within social media kaysa pa po sa mga social media companies.

Just for the record, yung nakaraang insidenteng pong iyon, paano po ba nangyari ito and what was the extent of your responsibility and accountability for this erroneous post na sinabi niyo rin kanina na you already took responsibility for?

Arevalo: As mentioned previously by former Sec. Lorenzana, there was actually a mix-up of files and inadvertently, it was actually released by one of my staff and that's why the report coming from the intelligence was mixed up with the reports of civil and military operations. And that mix up caused the release of the names inadvertently, maybe an oversight, and there's nobody to blame except me as the J-7 at that time.

SRH: Salamat, Lt. Gen. Arevalo. I admire your taking command responsibility sa insidente. Minsan tayo na nasa posisyon ng responsibilidad bilang mga tao may temptation na isisi ang iba o ilaglag ang iba and I always appreciate when fellow workers in government and leaders in government will take command responsibility for what happens under our watch.

Yung mga sagot ninyo sa tanong na ito leads to my next question about ano ba talaga ang nangyari.

How can the AFP improve its systems of vetting and release of information? Dapat po ba na mag-release publicly ang AFP ng list? Hindi ba dapat internal lang dapat ito?

Arevalo: I think that's one of the resolutions we had in the AFP, seeing to it that internal files should not be shared into the public. We have learned our lessons as I mentioned previously that's why we'll be more strict especially in the document security, especially in the civil military operations side. We're still improving systems in releasing information to the public.

SRH: Lastly, ano po yung remedial action kung yung isang red-tagged person ay mapatunayan na inosente pala?

Arevalo: In my personal experience, I really did apologize publicly to the person that was alluded to in the mistake I made and I think in terms of legal remedies, that will be available to anybody your honors, ma'am.

SRH: Maraming salamat especially for your public apology. Just to clarify sir, nag-public apology po kayo sa iisang tao o sa lahat pong nagkamaling nairelease sa listahang iyon?

Arevalo: We posted an apology on the same page to all that was alluded in that information last time.

SRH: Thank you. Meron ba sa kanilang sumagot, nag-acknowledge nung paghingi niyo ng paumanhin?

Arevalo: Because the FB page was actually shut down, I don't know if they were able to really react or reply on the said information, ma'am.

SRH: In that case, para lang mas matiyak sana natin na natanggap nung mga taong alluded to yung public apology na honestly hindi madalas mangyari na ang gubyerno ay mag-apologize sa mamamayan, I feel it's such an important message, kasi pagbawi or paghingi ng paumanhin is also a way of pagwawasto and laying the foundation of better relationships moving forward.

Kung mararapatin ninyo, maconsider lang yung mungkahi na since the FB page was shut down, which I also think was a good thing, baka pwede kayong humanap ng iba pang paraan to just make sure that this formal public apology reach the persons concerned. Kayo na po ang umalam anong tamang paraan, sulat ba iyon o kung anupamang paraan malaman po nila.

Arevalo: Yes, ma'aam, your honors.

SRH: Thank you so much for engaging me in this question na tingin ko pa napaka-importante in the context of continuing to professionalize the AFP, ending red-tagging, and building a more inclusive society. Maraming salamat, sir.

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